What is a National Recreation Area?
A National Recreation Area (NRA) is a designation given by Congress to land and water with significant outdoor recreation potential. National Recreation Areas are highly regarded and enjoy an enhanced stature among the universe of recreational designations. They are chosen because of unique recreational potential and are recognized and valued by tourists from around the world. Parks designated as National Recreation Areas are an especially good fit for Texas because they allow for significant local participation and control.
There are 18 NRAs in the US within the National Park Service (NPS), including Lake Meredith and Amistad NRAs in Texas. Most emphasize water-based recreation. They range in size, contiguity, land ownership structure, governing institutions and functional purposes. The NPS provides a coordinating presence, but may own little of the managed lands.
What is the proposed Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area (LSCNRA)?
The proposed Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area would be a coalition of non-contiguous sites along the upper and middle Texas coast joined in a voluntary partnership with the National Park Service with the goals of enhancing Texas-led stewardship and conservation, developing a coastal economic sector compatible with periodic flooding, and expanding and promoting nature and heritage tourism and outdoor recreation opportunities. The National Park Service’s expertise in education, visitor services, tourism marketing and stakeholder coordination, among other things, will make it a valued partner in this innovative public-private partnership.
Texans are working with Texas’s Members of Congress to draft legislation for a federal designation establishing the LSCNRA to conserve, protect and promote the benefits of the natural, cultural and recreational resources of the upper and middle Texas coast. LSCNRA legislation will strongly protect Texas private property rights and encourage more tourism and economic opportunity along the Texas coast.
How would the proposed LSCNRA work?
The LSCNRA will be a partnership in which local, state, and federal governments along with non-governmental organizations and private property owners voluntarily choose to participate. The partnership provides a flexible way to achieve the benefits and stature of National Park Service affiliation while retaining local participation and individual landowner control. The participants will tailor the charter and bylaws for the partnership to local preferences, needs and circumstances.
- Landowners within the LSCNRA have voluntarily chosen to participate.
- Only those sites explicitly listed in the Congressional designation may participate in the LSCNRA. Future congressional legislation would be needed to add additional partners thereafter.
- Establishing the LSCNRA will not subject landowners to additional federal regulation.
- Texas hunting and fishing, the use of off-road vehicles and personal watercraft, and the development of oil, gas, and other minerals are protected.
- Condemnation of property is prohibited.
- The Park Service brings some funding and staffing to the table, contributing its expertise in areas such as education, science, visitor services, and planning.
- A general management plan developed by the partnership guides national recreation area operation and helps coordinate participants’ activities.
The designation of the LSCNRA would likely bring millions of dollars to the upper and middle Texas coast. National Park Service units generate considerable economic benefits for their local regions supported by NPS visitor spending. A 2016 NPS report showed that NPS tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning about $10 for every $1 invested by the NPS. The increased tourism significantly affects local economies as well. In 2015, visitors to NPS units contributed more than $32 billion to local economies and supported almost 300,000 jobs nationally. The report finds that NPS visitors spent an estimated $262.5 million locally, supporting 4,100 jobs and $372.6 million in economic output in the Texas economy. See 2015 National Park Visitor Spending Effects: Economic Contributions to Local Communities, States, and the Nation (April 2016).
In addition to the economic benefits that the LSCNRA would bring to the region, maintaining open spaces and nature tourism sites along the upper and middle Texas coast helps support coastal resiliency. The LSCNRA is intended to function as part of a structural and non-structural regional flood damage mitigation strategy. It is entirely compatible with any other flood damage mitigation alternatives. As a consequence, the LSCNRA Coalition and the Lone Star Coastal Alliance do not take a position on any of the structural alternatives that may be considered.
Preserving natural spaces and recreational opportunities attracts and retains people and businesses. By offering a nationally recognized outdoor recreation destination adjacent to a major metropolitan area, the LSCNRA would help ensure that the Texas coast remains a top place to live and locate business. It would contribute significantly to the long-term economic and social vitality of the region.
Making It Happen
In order for the proposed Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area to become a designated unit of the National Park Service, a member of the Texas Congressional delegation must introduce a bill, Congress must pass it, and the President must sign it into law. Proposed legislation to designate the Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area has been drafted by the Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area Coalition. Plans are being made to introduce the legislation in Congress during 2017